1. We have multiple vegetarian and vegan options daily. We have been serving these for about five years or longer.
Our vegetarian items include:
• Veggie Burger
• Black Bean Enchilada
• Veggie Wraps
• Veggie Spring Rolls
• Pasta in Tomato Cream Sauce
• Salad Bar and Fresh Fruit
• Cheese Lasagna
• Veggie Black Bean Chili
• Whole Grain Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce
• Tortellini in Tomato Cream Sauce
• Assorted Vegetarian Hearty Soups
• Mexican Nacho Fiesta
• Baked Ziti
• Penne Pasta Alfredo
• Stuffed Shells
• Cheese Pizza
• Sandwich Bar
• Macaroni and Cheese
• Plus assorted vegetarian sides
Our vegan items include:
• Vegetable Lo mein
• Veggie Wraps offered without cheese
• Pasta Marinara
• Basmati Rice
• Baked Potatoes
• Sautéed Vegetables
• Refried Beans
• Mexican Rice
• Jasmine Rice
• Plus assorted vegan sides.
2. Our vegan and vegetarian menus are clearly marked on the monthly menu available at schools and online. Our vegan and vegetarian options are promoted though close contact with the food service managers at the schools we serve. We have a registered dietitian on staff that works closely with parents and with students with special dietary needs. We have special food days that promote ethnic diversity and within these menus are vegan and vegetarian items.
3. We serve fresh vegetables and fruit daily through our salad bars and in our entrees. There is a wide array of fresh vegetables and fresh fruit that changes with the seasons. The salad bar also includes options for vegetarian and vegan salads and sandwiches. Enclosed are some pictures from one of our salad bars. We make an attempt to use locally sourced produce.
4. Fairfax County supplies non-dairy beverages at some of our sites. We do not provide non-dairy beverages. Our schools have not requested this for their students. This is not to say this will not change as awareness of non-dairy benefits increase. There is no additional charge when provided.
5. Over the past five years we have worked on removing trans fats (we try to avoid fried foods), refined flours, preservatives and colorings, nitrites, high fructose corn syrup and adding whole grains, healthy oils, fresh fruits and vegetables, low sodium entrees, legumes, plus a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options.
We have scrutinized the products offered by our vendors. However, healthy products that meet our guidelines have been difficult to find in an institutional setting, but because we are a large operation that serves over 7000 meals per day we have made progress encouraging our vendors to expand their healthful offerings. Our distributors have made an effort to help us find products that meet our stringent guidelines of whole grains, low sodium, high fiber, low cholesterol and saturated fats. Sysco and Performance Food Groups (PFG) are just beginning to carry products that were until recently only carried by retail, health food markets. Because of the lack of economies of scale in the institutional arena, the cost until recently has been prohibitive for some of our schools. We are making progress in finding brands that meet our criteria.
We do provide snack options to our schools. Again we try to stay within our guidelines of whole grains, healthy fats, fresh produce, no nitrites, and low sodium.
We do offer nutrition education programs to our schools via our registered dietitian. She regularly speaks to parents about our dietary guidelines and explains the lengths we go to ensure we find the highest quality products. We also provide schools with a children’s nutrition book, Gobey Gets Full – Good Nutrition in a Nutshell. The book (enclosed) features Gobey the Health Nut, a wacky walnut, who cracks the code to good nutrition. His code word is GoBeFull. The letters in GoBeFull stand for:
• Greens (and other healthy veggies)
• Oils (and other healthy fats)
• Unrefined Grains (and other healthy carbohydrates)
• Lean Proteins
We also provide an adult manual GoBeFull – Eight Keys to a Healthy Life (enclosed) that expounds on the GoBeFull concepts (above) that can be used by both teachers and parents thus helping students and adults speak the same nutritional language.
6. FFS got started offering healthier food when they hired their registered dietitian. The dietitian encouraged them to begin think about food as medicine. Healthier food was beginning to mainstream in the retail markets and restaurants but was not reflected in school lunch programs. Our clients vary from public to private with a full range of ethnicities. Many private institutions often educate their students from pre K through 12th grade. This thirteen year time period has a significant effect on their overall health as they move from childhood to adulthood at the same school. This daily exposure to food has the potential to either teach good eating habits that lead to health and wellness or cement poor ones that lead to overweight and disease. Fortunately health promoting foods are just beginning to be served in most school lunch programs. While most schools do teach nutrition at some point in a student’s education, the food served in the cafeteria rarely reflects the nutritional concepts that they are learning in the classroom. FFS provides food that reinforces what children are learning. The food they see, smell, and actually eat reflects the concepts they are learning about thereby developing habits that can be taken into the real world. This is especially important for kids as they move on to college or the adult working world. This “fooducation” provided by FFS has the potential to affect their lives and their health for years to come.
7. FFS has worked hard to put together healthy and safe menus. We work out of our large institutional kitchen, making food from scratch where possible. We then deliver the food via vans in temperature controlled containers throughout the DC, VA, MD metro area. We obsessively follow food safety guidelines.
While schools and parents say they want healthier options, students often do not want to eat the healthier food. We have persevered in our efforts to combine healthier options with food kids will actually eat. This is a difficult line to walk especially since, as mentioned above, food distributors are only beginning to provide healthier items. We have also invested time, energy, and money encouraging our school administrators and decision makers to want healthier food despite the higher cost for the sake of the well-being of their student populations.
FFS is able and willing to meet the healthiest vegan, vegetarian, whole grain, healthy fats, high fiber, no slime, no colorings or preservatives, nitrite free, fresh produce diet. However, at the present time, our only limitation in meeting these nutritional goals, is the desire of the schools we serve and the cost of these healthier items. We look forward to the day when our motto “smart menus for hungry minds” is a reality throughout our community.
8. We heard about the Golden Carrot Award through our dietitian who subscribes to your publication.